These two new books vividly convey how the energy of the 1920s inspired F. Scott Fitzgerald. Subtitled “An Almost Theatrical Innocence,” John T. Irwin’s book provides thoughtful observations of the theatrical dimensions of Fitzgerald’s characters, while Ronald Berman’s F. Scott Fitzgerald and the American Scene positions Fitzgerald’s work in American historical and intellectual contexts.

Irwin’s volume is an appreciative, personal, and illuminating study characterized by Irwin’s lifelong involvement with Fitzgerald’s works. In six chapters rich with insights, he connects biography with critical readings and discusses themes ranging from theatricality and staging of the self to Fitzgerald’s mythical method and the female muse. With reference to The Great Gatsby (1925), Tender Is the Night (1934), and the Pat Hobby stories, Irwin explores theatricality as a key to Fitzgerald’s characters. We may recall the ostentatious splashes of merriment at Gatsby’s parties or...

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